The NAEP scores problem
When you live by test scores, you run the risk of dying by them too -- or, at least, the policies that dictated their importance should.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan issued a statement Thursday after the release of 12th grade reading and math scores on the National Aassessment of Educational Progress, the test sometimes called “the nation’s report card,” that said in part:
"Today’s report suggests that high school seniors’ achievement in reading and math isn’t rising fast enough to prepare them to succeed in college and careers. Reading results have improved since 2005, but are still below the level of 1992. Math scores also show only incremental gains over four years ago.”
My colleague Nick Anderson reported that reading scores for 12th graders since 2005 rose two points on a 500-point scale, and math scores rose three points on a 300-point scale. The translation: Thirty-eight percent of seniors demonstrated proficiency in reading and 26 percent reached that level in math. Reading scores remain lower than they were in 1992. And there was essentially no progress in closing achievement gaps that separate white students from black and Hispanic peers.”
Closing the achievement gap was the goal of President Bush’s No Child Left Behind law, which has defined the school reform movement for most of this decade and which was focused around a system of school assessments based on standardized tests.
Schools around the country scrambled to make sure kids could read and add, often to the exclusion of other basic subjects. Curriculum narrowed, cheating on testing increased, test prep became a dominant feature of the school week.
The Obama administration, also with a goal of closing the still-wide achievement gap, did not disrupt the NCLB regime, but rather extended some of its tenets.
Instead of suggesting that perhaps there is a problem with our education policies, Duncan said nothing of the sort. The rest of his statement said, somewhat inexplicably, that despite the bad news, the country would still meet Obama’s goal of having the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020.
"They’ll only succeed if we challenge and support them to raise their academic performance and offer them the financial support they need to pay for college. The Obama administration is providing $40 billion over the next decade in Pell Grants for disadvantaged students. We are supporting states as they work together to raise standards to match college and career expectations. We have invested in states’ efforts to create data systems to ensure teachers and parents have the information they need to know how their students and schools are doing.
"With these supports and a commitment to challenging the status quo, we’re confident we’ll meet the President’s goal and provide our students with the education that meets their aspiration to complete college."
If the administration keeps the same education policies, that confidence seems to be based on air.
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| November 18, 2010; 6:09 PM ET
Categories: Education Secretary Duncan, Standardized Tests | Tags: arne duncan, education secretary arne duncan, naep, naep scores, national assessment of educational progress, standardized tests, test scores
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